Bukowski starved for his art, living in rooming houses, working low paying jobs while also bumming around and spending time off in order to write and have more freedom.
“I guess, just in the blood of me couldn’t stand the whole thing that’s going on, the ordinariness of life,” Bukowski said. “I couldn’t stand family life, I couldn’t stand job life, I couldn’t anything I looked at. I just decided I either had to starve, make it, go made, come through, or do something. Even if I hadn’t made it on writing, I could not do the 8 to 5, I would have been a suicide, something. Something, I’m sorry.”
This video comes from the interview based documentary The Bukowski Tapes, directed by Barbet Schroeder, who also directed the Charles Bukowski penned film Barfly. There is a transcript below the video.
Charles Bukowski on Starving for Art
Barbet Schroeder: You say that starving doesn’t create art, that it creates many things, but mainly creates time.
Charles Bukowski: Oh yeah, well, hey that’s very basic. I hate to use up your film to say this, but you know, if you work an eight hour job, you’re gonna get 55 cents an hour. If you stay home you’re not going to get any money, but you’re gonna have time to write things down on paper.
I guess I was one of those rarities of our modern times who did starve for his art. I really starved, you know, to have a 24 hour day un-intruded upon by other people. I gave up food, I gave up everything, just to – I was a nut, I was dedicated. But you see, the problem is, you can be a dedicated nut and not be able to do it. Dedication without talent is useless. Understand what I mean?
Bukowski: Dedication alone is not enough. You can starve and want to do it (laughs), hey, ya know?
Schroeder: That’s the worst thing…
Bukowski: I know, and how many do that? They starve in the gutters and they don’t make it.
Schroeder: But you knew you had talent.
Bukowski: They all think they have. How do you know that you’re the one? You don’t know. It’s a shot in the dark. You take it, or you become a normal civilized person from eight to five. Get married, have children; Christmas together, here comes Grandma, “Oh, hi, Grandma! Come on in. Hi, you.” You know.
Shit, I couldn’t take that, I’d rather murder myself (laughs).
I guess just in the blood of me I couldn’t stand the whole thing that’s going on, the ordinariness of life. I couldn’t stand family life, I couldn’t stand job life, I couldn’t stand anything I looked at. I just decided I either had to starve, make it, go mad, come through, or do something. Even if I hadn’t made it on writing – I could not do the eight to five. I would have been a suicide, something. Something, I’m sorry. I could not accept the snail’s pace, eight to five, Johnny Carson, Happy Birthday, Christmas, New Year…to me this is the sickest of all sick things. So I just had luck, I held on, somebody took a poem or short story somewhere. Now I just sit around, drink wine, and I talk about myself because you guys ask questions, not because I give the answers. Okay?